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Covid 19; Israel Announces 3-Week Nationwide Lockdown again after Surge

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Jerusalem: Israel’s government announced Saturday it would impose a three-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to stem one of the world’s highest novel coronavirus infection rates after a surge in cases.
The lockdown order, set to go into effect on Friday, makes Israel the first developed economy to take such a drastic measure to curb a “second wave” of virus infections.

Israel had initially been widely praised for curbing the spread of the Covid-19 disease by imposing a stringent lockdown in March, but it is now second only to Bahrain for the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per capita, according to an AFP tally.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the government decision in a televised statement, saying the cabinet had agreed “a strict (lockdown) plan for three weeks, with an option that it will be extended”.

“Our goal is to stop the increase, to reduce the contagion,” which has crossed the threshold of 4,000 new cases a day, he added.

The lockdown is set to begin from 1100 GMT on Friday, just hours before the start of the Jewish New Year and the High Holidays, which also include the Day of Atonement and Sukkot.

The announcement comes despite pushback from part of the ultra-Orthodox contingent in government over enforcing a lockdown during the holidays.

Under the lockdown guidelines, still to be finalised, indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 20, meaning prayers at synagogues would be severely impacted.

Restaurants are set to be closed to on-site dining and movement will be limited to 500 metres (1,650 feet) from one’s home.

“I know these measures will exact a heavy price from all of us,” Netanyahu said.

“This is not the holiday time we’re used to, we certainly won’t be able to celebrate with our extended families.”

Earlier on Sunday, Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party resigned in protest of the lockdown’s timing, which he said was an affront to Israel’s Jews.

“It is an injustice and disregard for hundreds of thousands of citizens, ultra-Orthodox, religious and traditional,” who would seek to pray in synagogues and have family meals, Litzman said.

Despite early successes in stemming the virus spread, protests have broken out as cases have risen against Netanyahu and the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied again on Sunday to call for Netanyahu’s resignation over his alleged graft offences and failure to manage the Covid-19 crisis.

They blocked roads to Ben Gurion airport, from where Netanyahu was due to fly to the United States to attend the signing of agreements to normalise ties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Israelis angry with the government over the rise in cases have cited the rapid reopening of businesses, with some arguing insufficient financial measures forced people back to work prematurely.

Others have said the reopening of schools and the country’s increased testing capacity pushed up the number of positive cases.

Israel, with a population of nine million, has recorded 155,604 Covid-19 cases, including 1,119 deaths.

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Pregnant Christian in India Suffers Miscarriage After Brutal Beating by Hindu Radicals

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India– According to local sources, a pregnant Christian woman in India suffered a miscarriage after she was brutally beaten by a mob of radical Hindu nationalists. The radicals justified their attack by falsely claiming their Christian victims were involved in forced religious conversions to Christianity.

On December 31, 2020, radicals attacked a small prayer meeting in Bhevda village, located in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. The radicals reportedly stormed into the church hall and beat all of the Christians gathered for worship.

Among the Christians attending the prayer service was Leela Bhai and her husband Rakesh. At the time of the attack, Leela was eight months pregnant. According to survivors, the radicals did not spare anyone in their assault, not even Leela.

During the attack, Leela was beaten and kicked in the stomach. Days later, after complaining of severe stomach pains, Leela suffered a miscarriage.

Local Christians held a protest on January 6 in front of the Tikari police station in response to the attack. The Christians called on police to arrest those responsible for attacking the worship service and causing Leela’s miscarriage.

Anti-Christian tensions have been rising in Madhya Pradesh since the state government announced its intention to enact India’s most stringent anti-conversion law. Anti-conversion laws are often abused by radicals in India to justify assaults on Christians and other religious minorities. In the case of the attack on Leela and her church community, radicals justified their actions by falsely claiming they were stopping forced religious conversions.
Sources:persecution

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Saudi: Cabinet approves quarterly renewal of residency and work permits(Iqamas)

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Riyadh — Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the issuance and renewal of residency permits (Iqamas) linked to work permits for a minimum of three months.

The move, however, exempts domestic workers and similar professions, the Saudi Press Agency reported quoting the Cabinet statement.

The fees (expat levy and dependent fee) for the renewal of work and residency permits can be split up and paid based on the duration of the issued and renewed permits.

The Cabinet also abolished the Diplomatic Quarter Authority in Riyadh and its organizational arrangements and transferred all its missions, projects, rights, obligations, and workers to the jurisdiction of the Royal Commission for Riyadh.

The Cabinet considered the Public Investment Fund’s strategy for the next five years, which was approved by the fund’s Board of Directors headed by the Crown Prince, as a major pillar in achieving the Kingdom’s ambitions towards economic growth, raising the quality of life, and achieving the concept of comprehensive and sustainable development in diverse traditional and modern sectors.

This also complements its huge investment and economic achievements, which enabled it to reach important strategic goals, and place it in a prominent position on the world map as a pioneering sovereign fund capable of investing and managing large capital in multiple markets, the Cabinet noted.

The Cabinet also appreciated the promising visions for the Kingdom’s prosperous future, as articulated by the Crown Prince in his speech. The PIF would contribute to supporting the development process, and continue to stimulate the growth and diversification of the economy through a number of goals, the Council said in its statement.

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